Althea Gibson should be given due respect

It is a fact that FAMU produces individuals that have the potential to change the world, as we know it. From movies, music to politics, “The Hill” has delivered some of the best that there is to offer.

We love to brag about the good job Anika Noni Rose did in the Oscar-winning “DreamGirls” or the powerful speech Kwame Kilpatrick gave at the summer 2006 graduation, but what will it take for some people to receive credit when credit is overdue?

What if a FAMU grad raised the bar, transformed the stereotype of a sport by proving that a black person could become a champion?

This person is tennis legend Althea Gibson.

I am aware that her name has been brought up at Convocation and she has a ‘rinky dink’ sign on the FAMU tennis courts which reads: “The House that Althea Built” but is that really enough? I hope not.

Althea Gibson is a black woman who influenced the world of tennis, which is still a predominately white sport. Gibson was the first black person to take home the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles. During her career she won five Grand Slam singles titles all prior to 1960.

By doing this she set the standard for future tennis pros like Arthur Ashe, Venus & Serena Williams, Zina Garrison, Chanda Rubin and James Blake to make their marks in tennis.

Without the work of this monumental FAMU alumna, there possibly would not be any Grand Slam title-winning blacks in tennis, because they would not have the belief that it could be done.

I charge the university’s administration to give credit where credit is due. The same woman that at this year’s U.S. Open – a major tennis Grand Slam tourney – had a day set aside in her honor recognizing her victory there 50 years prior. The same woman that was not just successful in tennis but in several other sports as well. Althea Gibson is a sports legend, a Rattler and arguably one of the most influential graduates of FAMU.

We are so quick to welcome and honor those influential blacks that did not come from this prestigious university, but what about our own?

I want to brag about the statue built in Althea Gibson’s legacy or the recreational center named after her in her honor. I want to smile when I hear a student, even one that may not know anything about tennis, boast about Gibson attending this university.

Althea Gibson, the “Jackie Robinson of Tennis,” it is time for you to receive the recognition which is long overdue.

Nyerere Davidson is a senior public relations student from Milwaukee. He can be reached at